Student questions! Thanks Mr. Sanderfoot’s classes!

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with two of Mr. Sanderfoot’s classes from Berlin High School in Berlin Wisconsin. They had a chance to meet with scientists in the labs and have a virtual tour of the JOIDES Resolution at o-dark thirty here in the South China Sea! 

They had many questions after the live broadcast about life at sea.  I have answered some of them here in this blog post! 

1.   How big is the ship? 

– 470 feet long! The Derreck is 190 feet above the water level. 

2.   Can you bring your own food, shampoo, etc. 

– Yes, you must bring all of your personal toiletries, but it is a bit of a puzzle. How much shampoo and toothpaste does one need for a 2 month expedition? Food is limited to dry food and small condiments because of limited storage. The ship supplies you with 4 meals a day at 12am and 12pm and 6am and 6pm but you are typically sleeping for one of them. I discovered that there is popcorn in the movie room last night!

3.   Can you go swimming while at sea?

– Unfortunately for safety reasons absolutely not. The ship is either in transit or when it is at a core site it will have several of the thrusters turning which could suck you under the water. 

4.  How long has the ship been out to sea at one time? (Besides the length of your two month expeditions)

– The JOIDES Resolution is typically at sea only for the 2 month expeditions. It  does not return to the U.S. often. Some other ships like the Chikyu stay out at sea for longer and they helicopter people and supplies on and off the ship. 

5. Is there a doctor onboard? what happens if there’s a medical emergency?

We do have a doctor on board who can stitch us up and give you medicine prescriptions but if a major injury or medical issue arises a person will need to be evacuated by helicopter. We have a Heli-deck at the back of the ship for landing a helicopter. 

6.  We saw the pet wall, but can anybody have any type of pet onboard?

– No 🙁 but there are a lot of geologists on board so they are happy with their pet rocks. Also there is a lot of sea life around us. It is fun to watch the fish and squid at night. 

7. What types of safety drills do you prepare for? What happens if somebody falls overboard?

– Every Sunday we do simulated abandon ship drills, man overboard drills, and the crew members trained in firefighting do fire drills with different scenarios. Safety is a huge concern at sea. We all know our stations for the life boats and our number for count off. 

8. Do you need prior experience to work onboard? 

– For the technicians who run the labs they need to have a bachelors degree in science and some relevant work experience in the lab but most of the training is done on the ship. Sometimes a person will sail on the JOIDES as a technician and then come back as a researcher. And I know some of the technicians who first sailed as researchers and came back to help support the labs. 

– For the science participants they apply either as graduate students, post docs, or researchers from a university or research lab. The skills and research objectives are evaluated by the IODP panel and invitations to researchers are extended based on the needs of the expedition. For the scientists this is a great opportunity to meet other researchers in their field from around the world. Also there is typically a mix of levels some senior researchers, associate professors, post docs, and  some graduate students. 

**It also really helps to know if you get sea sick or not!**

9.  What’s the minimum age to work onboard?

– It is 18 in general. But for the technicians and graduate students the typical starting age is around 22-28 when they are finished with college and/or in graduate school. 

10.  Are there summer camp/intern opportunities for high school/undergrad students onboard the JOIDES Resolution or any scientific research ship?

– Not specifically through IODP. But once you are in college there are internship opportunities and fellowships for graduate school. http://iodp.tamu.edu/outreach/careers.html . It is a good idea when you are planning to go to college to research and plan your internships ahead of time so that you do not miss the application deadlines. 

11. What happens if the ship encounters severe weather?

– Batten down the hatches and go down the the “dungeon” the middle bottom of the ship where it does not move as much. And eat crackers. If you are Randy, our marine instrumentation technician, and you do not get sea sick you might taunt the crew by eating a snickers bar with a pickle just to watch the others turn green! 

If the weather is too severe all operations will stop. In general the ship is safer in deeper water. It may seem counter intuitive but a lot of ships will head out to see if a storm is coming. Think about surfing and wear the waves break. If a large cyclone is headed in the ships direction they may stop operations early and try to move out of the way of the storm. 

As I am writing this I keep seeing a cyclone that is trying to form on our weather tracking cams. 

12.   Do you have to worry about pirates?

-Yes. There are certain security measures that they use so that they are not a target. In general they try to avoid areas that have a high amount of piracy.  

13. What happens when people get cabin fever on the ship? 

– Elaborate pranks with in the crew. For example the flash mob that expedition 351 surprised the co-chief with on his birthday. – https://youtu.be/JTeZPWACnRs